How annoying

The most annoying thing about someone telling you about annoying things is that suddenly you realise that it’s now annoying you as well. I must warn you that I’m about to do this to you now. I’m not talking about The Gamehere. Although that is pretty annoying.
No, until just today, I have had the unenviable experience of having any spare moment in my mind instantly filled by the theme music from the Police Academy series of films.

This may have been the subconcious reasoning behind my desire not to relax in Madikwe. There’s nothing that compliments sighting endangered antelope, skittishly* drinking at the waterhole less than der-dum-te-der-der-der-der-derrrr, de-diddly-dum-de-de-der-dum-der-der-der running through your mind.
And, because annoying things are catching, you’re now humming along too. With or without your skittish antelope.

But that’s ok, because I have (or rather, I had) moved on. Police Academy has now been overwritten in my cerebrum by another police theme tune. Cagney and Lacey, no less. Remember the unfathomably fast solo sax intro, breaking into the happy 80’s cheese?

Of course you do.

And what’s more, now you can’t forget it either. Annoying, isn’t it?

Another annoying thing, more particular to South Africa, is the sudden rash of people who have seemingly moved on from their denial that the 2010 World Cup is coming to South Africa. In addiction terms, this is described as “hitting bottom”. It’s not kinky. Not at all. No, it’s a good thing. The World Cup is coming; they must get used to that idea now.
There is a more sinister side though. After all, every silver lining has a cloud. (Unless it’s the silver lining of The Ad Wizard’s super sexy jacket, obviously.)
But I digress.
The sinister side is that their reluctant acceptance has led to just one more line with which to put the country down. “If we can’t do it now, then what’s going to happen in 2010?”

(And various forms thereof).
The joy of this little line (for them) is that it can be applied to virtually anything. And they do apply it to anything: The trains, the roads, the hotels, the crime, the people, the housing crisis, the health department – even the stadium, god bless it. Forget the fact that the stadium isn’t scheduled to be completed for another 2 and a bit years. And that it’s over 2 months ahead of schedule. No.
[mildly hysterical voice]: “If the stadium isn’t ready now, what on earth will happen in 2010?”
Well, I think they’re going to carry on building between now and then, so that by 2010 we have a world-class facility ready for the competition. Don’t you?

The simple fact is that even if the World Cup were to arrive tomorrow, SA would probably manage just fine – although the matches in a few places would be on huge building sites, with cranes for goals.
Here in Cape Town, we’ve been told that it will be like a usual month in the tourist season, and because it falls in winter down here, it’ll be like a bonus month for the city. Oh, and look, we managed just fine last January and I daresay we’ll manage nicely this January too, so I’m not too worried, no matter what our Doubting Thomas friends see through their half-empty glasses.

* From skittish – every game ranger’s favourite antelope adjective.

It doesn’t happen often…

…so perhaps you should mark this post in some special way so that you can come back here and marvel at this most unusual of occurrences.
Yes, I may have been “a bit wrong” in my last post. See, actually while I was writing my previous post about this place, one of the local lions was successfully hunting one of the local wildebeest.

Seeing the outcome of that little mismatch has changed my whole outlook on the game reserve/safari concept. I have to admit, I didn’t get it. Even having seen the lions up close, having watched the elephants at the water hole and seen a billion different antelopes*, it really wasn’t any different from a zoo. Except that there were no guarantees of seeing anything.

But getting up close to Mrs Lion, her two nephews and her three cubs as they tucked into 200kg of unfortunate wildebeest somehow made something click. At least they were doing something, and not just lying around in some really thick bushes, confusing my camera. And I couldn’t wait to get out the next morning to see the latest developments – which, essentially, were that lions eat a lot. And quickly.
You can see our lion pictures by clicking here and other snaps from Madikwe (including Caroline and David’s wedding pics, if that’s what you’re here for) by clicking here. I do, however, maintain my theory about camera envy. The lenses just kept getting bigger and bigger as the days went by. Some achievement considering that we were miles from anywhere in the middle of the African bush, the nearest specialist camera shop perhaps a 2 hour drive away. Assuming there is a camera shop in Zeerust. All we saw (and used) was their amazing drive-thru bottle store.

We’ve been back in Cape Town for a couple of days now, but I know that some of the main protagonists (can you have more than one protagonist?) were staying on – god only knows how long they’re exposing for now…Back to reality – but it’s good reality. I’m just off to purchase the all new Parlotones CD which was released today: A World Next Door To Yours has been described as “a suitably excellent progression from their previous work” by the Cape Times and as “a CD I’m about to go and buy” by me.  

In our next post, 6000 miles will be looking into the reasons behind the apparent issue of an arrest warrant for the Commissioner of Police in South Africa. We’ll also be asking when any sort of decent weather plans to arrive in Cape Town and not commenting (at all) on Madeleine McCann.

Vive la difference!

*This may be a slight exaggeration.

I must be Mad-ikwe

We’re in Madikwe Game Reserve up on the Botswana border in the north of SA for a wedding of a friend. It was a hell of a trip up here yesterday. Leaving Alex at home in the safe hands of Granny and Poliswa, we set out at 5:30am for the flight to Jo’burg and then on again for a further four and a half hours driving through places I’d only ever seen on the weather map, through the flat, barren Gauteng and North West landscape.

It struck me as we flew from the lush, green corner of SA that is Cape Town and home, up across the Karoo and into Jo’burg that there is a hell of a lot of South Africa and that most it is very empty and very brown. Also that the houses and cars in the Free State are really small. (Although that could have something to do with the fact that they were 35,000 feet below me).

It’s my first visit to a proper game reserve and though it’s a new experience, I’m not overwhelmed. Sure – it’s another thing to tick off on the list, but that’s actually all it comes down to – list ticking. Who’s seen what (everyone’s seen everything), which ranger is the best (they’re all great) and the all important question – the real competition: who’s got the biggest camera lens (mine’s tiny, but it extends and it’s very powerful).

Mealtime conversations are dominated – as of course they should be – with stories regaled of visits to other reserves and close encounters with The Big Five, discussions of auto focus techniques and has anyone seen anything interesting from their chalet. I’m sat on the deck outside ours right now watching a small herd of Tsessebe drinking from the water hole about 10 metres away. I’d never even heard of a Tsessebe before this morning. There’s a sole Impala with them. I’m going to call him Vlad the Impala.

Yes – I’m enjoying the experience, but the whole safari thing is not wowing me in the same way that it is many others here. Thus, I find myself sat with the wife’s laptop, a cold beer and my rattly iPod, occasionally glancing at Vlad et al, but enjoying the music more than the view. Does this make me a true city boy? Incapable of relaxing, needing constant stimulation, bright lights, the hum of the city; enjoying seeing my venison medium rare rather than endangered?

So be it. Each to their own. Life could be worse. The sun is shining and the stunning sunbirds are singing over the quiet bit in the REM song that’s on right now – which is actually improving it. I may even drop Michael Stipe an email and suggest a remix. I’ll be back in civilisation (well, Cape Town) in a couple of days, when I’ll also pop in some photos – in the meantime, I’m going to try and upload this.

If you’re reading this – it worked. If you’re not, you smell.

T.B. in S.A. – it’s B.A.D.

Following a myriad of complaints about my absence, I’m back.
When I say “myriad”, it was actually three complaints. And two of them were by the same person.
But who’s au fait with the literal meaning of “myriad”, anyway?

Top of the list for today is TB. I work with the stuff and it’s just great.
That’s because I work with it and I don’t have it. Having TB is obviously a completely different kettle of fish. And having XDR-TB (that’s “eXtensively Drug Resistant” TB) is almost certainly even worse.
South Africa has a big TB problem and, like many countries with a big TB problem, it also has issues with the drug resistant forms of the disease and how to effectively treat them.

The USA woke up to the threat of XDR-TB earlier this year with the Andrew Speaker case. Here’s the wikipedia link, rather grandly entitled the “2007 tuberculosis scare”.
How pathetic. I have a “tuberculosis scare” each time I go to the local supermarket.

Compare then, and contrast if you will, the terminology used in this Cape Times article, which claims that 3 patients have “escaped” or “absconded” from the isolation unit at the local hospital. The Department of Health, bless them, have been quick to point out that while there are laws allowing authorities to detain XDR-TB patients, they cannot legally force them to take their (rather unpleasant) medication anyway.

It opens up a huge can of worms. I reluctantly accept that these patients’ human rights would be violated if they were forced to take medication, but they are surely violating the human rights of others by leaving their isolation wards and living amongst their families and communities. Perhaps there is a case for returning to the old days of “Typhoid Mary” and mandatory detention and enforced medication for patients with highly contagious infectious diseases. I can just imagine the faces of my liberal readership (now my liberal ex-readership) as I suggested that. They’ll change their tune when they’ve got an XDR-TB case living next door to them and their kids though. Liberals do that.
Essentially though, we’re just delaying the inevitable. XDR is the big, bad brother of TB. It has tattoos, a criminal record and growls instead of talking. It wears a leather bikers jacket and doesn’t shave. It has friends in high places and enjoys tea and scones with Jackie Selebi each Friday.
It’s only a matter of time until we see an explosion of cases here in SA. Unless we push through those mandatory medication laws.
And that’s not going to happen.

Anyway, while we have three patients “on the run”, Andrew Speaker has been on national TV being interviewed by Larry King, no less. Bless our American friends. Life certainly is “different” over there.

Going back to our local case, it’s entirely possible the three escapee patients just left because they got fed up with the food.
After all, their diet in hospital consists solely of pizza and pancakes.
I once asked a doctor at one of the isolation units if this had any specific health benefits for them.
“No”, he replied, “but that’s all we can slide under the door…”

A Nation Mourns As One (Almost)…

I know that I’ve previously mentioned (here and here) the issues around race and sport in South Africa and the difficulties these have caused in gaining support for the upcoming 2010 FIFA World Cup tournament, which is due to start in South Africa at ten past eight. Or something.

Well, those issues surely came to a head this weekend, when the Springbok (rugby) side played Samoa in their World Cup, while Bafana Bafana (the football side) played Zambia in a vital African Cup of Nations qualifier SIMULTANEOUSLY AND AT THE SAME TIME!!!

A clear opportunity for a national racial divide then? Well, actually, not quite.

The Ad Wizard (if we were the less-amusing-than-it-used-to-be, we’d link to a list of friends, including the revolting Nic Marais, with nicknames related to their employment here, but we’re not, so we won’t) was despairing at my lack of commitment to going and watching the football and SMS’ed:

How on earth am
I going to find a
safrican to watch
the footie with. I
only know white

In actual fact, things worked out ok and he, myself and The Political Analyst (dear god – it’s catching!) headed down to Newlands to support the boys in yellow, ignoring the apathy of the possibly predominantly white, rugby-watching couch potatoes.What we found there amazed us. A truly cosmopolitan crowd of every colour imaginable. (Actually, that’s a lie, there were no greens or lilacs, but you get what I mean, I’m sure.) And with unreserved seating, the atmosphere build up started early.

White kids dragging their parents into the dark, vuvuzela-laden world of African football; the middle-aged, delighted at the opportunity to watch international sport at one fifth of the rugby prices; children of every age and creed sat on proud dad’s shoulders; and of course, the true fans in their colourful numbers – the ones who turn out rain or shine to watch the beautiful game.

This truly was a demonstration of The Rainbow Nation: race, preconceptions and issues left at the turnstiles, problems forgotten for 90 minutes as everyone waved their flags, blew their horns and got behind the national team. You just don’t get this universal, inclusive passion at rugby matches. Check the video if you don’t believe me.

What an opportunity for Bafana Bafana to win over the sceptics, the naysayers and the critics.
And what better way to do it than going 0-3 down to Zambia inside 21 minutes, each goal presented on a silver platter by a hapless defence to a grateful Chris Katongo?
Amazingly, the atmosphere didn’t die, as Bafana created chance after chance. And local hero Benni McCarthy did score early in the second half. But despite a valiant effort, the damage was done and the fans went home entertained, but disappointed.

Even though the game ended in defeat for the home side, I’d like to think that a few more 2010 supporters were gained from the fantastic support and the amazing mood inside the the stadium.It was all in stark contrast to the last 15 minutes of the rugby we watched when we got back home, which seemed quiet, dull and distant in comparison, despite the more positive result.